Why online education matters

I suppose I should preface this a little bit with who I am and what I do. My name is Casey Dierking and I'm a self taught web developer living in Battambang, Cambodia. I currently teach web development with technologies ranging from CSS to Ruby on Rails. I've lived in Cambodia for one yar so far and thats where this post begins.

In January of 2013 I heard about an online initiative to fuel free online education called Edx.

EdX is a non-profit created by founding partners Harvard and MIT. We're bringing the best of higher education to students around the world. EdX offers MOOCs and interactive online classes in subjects including law, history, science, engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health, and artificial intelligence (AI).

I remember thinking to myself that this was the start of something big. Major universities like MIT and Harvard coming together to offer computer sciences courses (I think at the time of launch they only had a couple courses and they were all relating somehow to computer science) was an amazing thing. I remember sigining up for Harvard's CS50 course. As soon as the lectures were released I would hurriedly download them and start working through the problem sets.

Before all this, I had dabbled in building wordpress sites and doing a little bit of freelance design work. Nothing major though. I considered myself knowledgable with web design and computers in general, but definitly not a professional. I knew enough to get myself in trouble.

I remember finishing my first problem set which had to do with outputting a bunch of hashes in the command line to make the ending pyramid in mario. We programmed it in C. The gratification I felt of telling the computer to do this and have it actually do it changed everything. It was during that moment that I knew I wanted to do this professionaly and that it was not impossible.

Fast forward about 6 months or so. I started picking up Ruby on Rails. Really learning CSS. Learning about Frameworks. Learning about anything and everything I could get my hands on. About this time I started teaching a computer class. We had a beginner class and an advanced class. The beginner class was basic CSS. Super simple stuff. The Advanced class was rails. At the time I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The day before each class I would hurriedly trying to study up on different topics. I was teaching myself along with my students. They were my motivation to learn it enough to teach it. I had to know how to answer their questions. It was awesome and frightening at the same time.

Now I do want to say that I'm still very much a beginner. I'm almost one year in to my journey of learning to code and build web applications, and I don't plan on slowing down at all. But during this entire time being in Cambodia while learning and teaching this stuff, I've come to realize one thing.

Online Education Matters.

None of what I'm doing would even be remotely possible if online education for this stuff didn't exist. There are a wealth of resources out there to learn to code. I'm not even going to try to list them all right now because the list would go on forever. The fact that big names like Harvard and MIT are pushing forward to educate the world, are so important.

I look at my students who by the way are learning all this stuff in a second language. I thought it was hard in a first language, but their drive to learn must be even greater than mine! They don't have programming bootcamps here. They don't have mentors they can go to to learn from. They don't have hackathons or meetups to go to. They don't have Conferences.

They just have the internet.

So today, I implore you. Think about how online education and resources have helped you learn and grow not only as a programmer or web developer. But as a person. Has it affected your life at all?

I'd love to hear your comments.

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